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Photo Courtesy Maayan Zilberman
Interview

MAAYAN ZILBERMAN & NIKKI DEKKER

02.22.12

Maayan Zilberman and Nikki Dekker launched The Lake and Stars in 2007. The intimates collection offers a balance between special occasion pieces and everyday lingerie.

Interview

Your attitude for The Lake and Stars has always been to shift from “special occasion.” How do you see ultimate styling for your collection?

Maayan: We started the line because we wanted intimates that you could wear all the time and that would look cool if they happen to show. We didn’t go out to make lingerie as ready-to-wear, this was not a new idea or anything we want to push our customer into, especially if she’s not ready for it. The idea is to style it into your wardrobe so if pieces show here and there, it’s a part of your look that is considered and sensitive to your individual aesthetic.

The Fall 11 ‘Lake and Stars ad campaign was considered shocking for showing a mother-daughter pair in lingerie. Can you talk about what inspired you to create the campaign?

Maayan: It’s actually a series of portraits of our two friends Johanna and India who live next door. I have known them for over a decade, and have always thought they were so beautiful and interesting. Re-meeting the daughter more recently, and seeing her interact with her mom as an adult, I thought it would be inspiring to other women of our generation to see a healthy and mature mother and daughter relationship. We thought they were a perfect example of the kind of women we like to dress. We were quite surprised by the media’s reaction, and saddened that people saw darkness in what was a very lighthearted photo shoot.

What kind of reaction have you gotten from men on the collection?

Maayan: We get the best responses from men who have seen it for the first time on their partners. We always love to hear when wearing our lingerie gives women the confidence to try wearing lingerie, when perhaps they wouldn’t have before. We get a lot of emails from men who like our editorial campaigns too, I think they’re different from other lingerie ads. Men feel less creepy starting a conversation about pictures with a storyline rather than straight-up “girls in underwear.”

Nikki: That’s what I’ve heard most from male friends and fans –that our collection contains a deeper interest other than the obvious because of the non-traditional references we use, and the almost action-movie heroine take that the models have portrayed in past campaigns.

Do you take men into consideration when designing?

Maayan: With everything meant for the “bedroom” (as opposed to items in the line that can be worn in or out), we like to ask ourselves “Is this hot?” “Would this work?” These questions don’t pertain to men exclusively — we do design for intimacy, but this is for both sexes.

Do you plan to expand the line outside of lingerie at any point?

Last season we showed a line of swimwear, and for Fall 2012 we debuted a capsule collection of ready-to-wear styles to layer with our lingerie.

Having won the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award last year, have you noticed greater awareness for The Lake and Stars?

Maayan: Because with the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation prize we were able to have our first real show at Fashion Week, it increased our exposure significantly and gave us the chance to start being reviewed on Style.com. Being part of this community was a big break for us, being considered amongst the RTW designers and reaching so many more people.

Nikki: We won the prize for “Womenswear” and that was really gratifying, as we’ve always thought of the line as a “designer” line. We bring in different themes each season as in the RTW collections, but ours just happens to be lingerie. For the line to be included in each season’s dialogue is very exciting

Are there any collaborations or awards that you are most proud of?

Maayan: One of the really fun projects we got to do last year was making costumes for Britney Spears in collaboration with our friend Zaldy. It was really fun thinking in terms of stage/glitter/flexibility, rather than intimacy and luxury. For Spring 2012 we collaborated with the Mexico City-based jewelry line Anndra Neen on a collection of rosary-inspired necklaces and cage purses. While we worked with them in Mexico, the designers also developed special hardware for our bras and bodysuits out of copper, silver, and rose gold.

One of the most exciting honors we received recently was our very own BOFFO Pop Up store in Tribeca. It was part of a series including Nicola Formichetti, Ohne Titel, and Patrik Ervell, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase our brand in a customized retail environment. Working with architects at SoftLab was a really great experience too.

Maayan, you were born on a kibbutz in Israel, Nikki on a farm in North Dakota. Both of these were an environment that you wouldn’t necessarily find luxury lingerie. Has your background influenced where you are today?

Maayan: I was raised to look for creativity in simple things, and to find my own way without the usual distractions that kids have these days. Being brought up with a strong background in art, I wasn’t all that interested in trends and fashion. I was focused on making things, and was always inspired by offering new solutions or ways of looking at the world visually. It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I became interested in how this might manifest itself in fashion. Making lingerie was a cool challenge, because it forced me to consider my ideas in a very small piece of real estate, with set parameters and tons of room for innovation. Where I came from there was emphasis on form and function, be it military uniforms or outdoor gear, so this aesthetic carries through to The Lake & Stars.

Nikki: Growing up on a farm, there was a lot of alone time where we (my sisters and I) had to be creative to fill the time. Whether that was making up games or collecting components found outside and making art with them, it made for an early base finding inspiration everywhere you looked, and with what you had. It also made me a tomboy — I loved putting things together and building in my grandpa’s workshop. It makes sense that I ended up in something as technical as lingerie.

Maayan, you began as a sculptor. How did you transition to designing lingerie?

Maayan: When I got out of school I did a residency at the Fondazione Ratti in Como, Italy. The program was for sculpture, in collaboration with the artist Ilya Kabakov. During the weekends we took trips to neighboring towns, and one weekend we went to visit the silk factories Ratti is most known for. When I got back to New York that Fall, I met some businesswomen who were looking for a designer to launch a new lingerie brand. I offered to try designing a collection (based on my new interest in textiles, and my innate interest in offbeat challenges), so I got a bunch of lingerie and took it apart to see how its made. Our line took off, and it seemed like the right thing to do to ride that wave. It was only later, when I consulted to other lingerie brands as a creative consultant, that I realized what was lacking in the industry, and what would challenge me most conceptually and aesthetically.

What do you each bring to the collection?

Maayan:We are each set in our stylistic archetypes. I’d say we each bring our particular styles to the table when we start the discussion for a new season, and it’s a marriage of masculine/feminine, formal/casual, flirty/serious that make up the DNA of The Lake & Stars. We work really hard to make sure there’s a dichotomy in each collection that keeps people wondering where the references are coming from. It’s that mystery that we enjoy in the collections of our favorite designers.

Nikki: We work well together because in the end, we don’t take it all too seriously. So much of the collection starts with a joke, or reference to something we saw on a trip, and bringing that in to a fashion context is something we’re both interested in. We end up looking at other collections and seeing trends emerge after the fact, but neither of us is a big trend watcher and I think it benefits the outcome of our line.

Tell me about your Fall 2012 Collection.

Nikki: We created a capsule RTW collection this season, which was a very different way of thinking for us. We’ve always touted the line as cross over, but wanted to make it a bit easier for that girl who isn’t interested in wearing a bra as a “top”.

Valentine’s Day just passed. Do you ever design special occasion sets?

Nikki: Designing a lingerie line, we do have those special occasion holidays that we keep in mind, depending on the season. Valentine’s Day is a big one, as are the December holidays. It’s a slightly different calendar than one might think of for RTW so we try to make sure we have those special items available during those times of the year.

You’re coming up on your 5th anniversary of the brand. In 2007, did you think you’d be here now?

Maayan: In 2007 we were so relieved to finally debut our line after developing it for over a year, that we were just enjoying the moment and were waiting to see the industry’s reactions. We were blessed to be warmly received by the fashion community, and were given the opportunity to go on to design many more collections. We enjoy what we are doing so much because we treat each season like it could be our last, and we make sure that what we’re saying with our brand is exactly what matters to us.

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